Twenty Boomeritis Blunders… or is it Four?

In Twenty Boomeritis Blunders, Jim Andrews accuses Ken Wilber of twenty blunders ranging from mild to serious in his novel, _Boomeritis_. Matt Dallman lauds this as “funny and intellectually rigorous” and talks about the necessity of skeptical investigation of Wilber’s work.

Matt also tries head off a “poor argument” against Andrews essay, by noting that:
>”… of course Wilber’s book is an attempt at fiction. But the same intellectual framework that undergirds that books undergirds the last five or so non-fiction books from him.”

So, I started this essay with some hope of some reasonable argument. I encourage you to read Andrews’ essay and make up your own mind if it’s valid, especially if you’ve read _Boomeritis_ and especially if it irritated you.

Basically, the “blunders” Andrews enumerates fall into X groups:
**Slack writing**: the typo in #0, calling reviewers “critics” in #5 and Wilber’s repetitiveness in #1
**Bad fact checking**: the bogus legal cases in #2, #3, #4, incorrect naming in #6, #8, dumb statements about Vietnam in #7, incorrect attribution in #10
**Lack of evidence**: for physical transformation in #14, for paranormal phenomena in #15, for meditation as a transformative practice in #18, for most growth being in the young and the old in #20
**Bad arithmetic**: #16, #17 (although it isn’t clear that apples are even being added to oranges in these passages)
**Disagreements in emphasis**: not mentioning the politicization of literary criticism in #9, not spending enough time talking about the negative effects of tofu in #11, not spending enough time talking about feminism, and leaving it to one character to dismiss it in #12, talking about sex too much in #13
**Writing fiction in a novel:** … in #19.

To take any of this seriously, you have to set aside, as Matthew suggests, that Andrews has strangely chosen to critique a novel rather than non-fiction writing – if you don’t you’re struck with the fact that he’s criticising statements made by fictional characters (rather than Wilber). Even accounting for that, it seems to me you could take the slack writing, bad fact checking and bad arithmetic charges and either lay them at the feet of Wilber’s editors or simply recommend he stick to non-fiction. I can’t really take the disagreements in emphasis or #19 seriously (too. many. sexual. fantasies!?) – they all just boil down to saying, essentially, “I didn’t like the guy’s book, I would have written it differently”. It’s by no means clear that Andrews’ rewrite would have made it any better as a novel.

That all leaves us with, in my opinion, four “blunders” out of twenty that aren’t sort of… silly; and they’re all lack of evidence (which in this context means peer-reviewed publications) for four things presented as facts:

– physical changes in ITP,
– paranormal phenomena,
– the efficacy of meditation in mental growth and
– developmental growth being restricted to mostly the young and the elderly.

I agree that it would be preferable if these things were either presented a lot more conditionally or someone found or published some evidence for them. Burying them in amongst typos, writing critique and your issues about people expressing their sexuality (however puerile you might find it) hides an important point, I think.

But what would I know?

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18 responses to “Twenty Boomeritis Blunders… or is it Four?

  1. Hi Tim,

    I came upon your site via clicking through Technorati. Looks good, glad that your voice is out there/here. Will continue to check out your site as things go forward.

    Anyway, I come in peace and want to stand up a bit for Andrews’ piece, which I do think is funny and intellectually rigorous, as I said initially, and highlights several points that generally conclude that the intellectual integrity of Wilber (as a scholar/researcher/etc) ought be questioned. I don’t think it is any kind of ultimate take-down of Wilber’s theory, but for its limited context and aims, I consider it one of the better pieces of critique out there. He makes distinctions between minor, moderate, and major blunders, which further contextualizes his investigations and conclusions. He makes jokes (i.e., blunder #0, and others), doesn’t take things too seriously (but, also, does). He ends with reasonable suggestions to the person interested in Wilber and integral theory in general (suggestions that show he is in fact very interested in integral theory, though not perhaps Wilber’s integral). And he provides endnotes for all his research. Honestly, I don’t see how this piece ought not be taken seriously, and the points addressed at face value. And I definitely don’t see where your implied suggestion at the end of your commentary is going, though it doesn’t sound anywhere particularly pleasant. 🙂

    Now is a good time to start to consider what “reasonable metrics” are for the assessment of critiques of Wilber’s work. It is long-accepted folklore that it is difficult to critique his theories. Difficult, for several reasons. One is the breadth of the topics covered; another is the amount of books written, with points buried in footnotes or in a couple sentences in a book that attempts to set right something discussed in another. But the main reason, I think, is that philosophy, at least traditionally, dances between science and speculation, the former is critique-able, and the latter generally not (but rather “dismissed” or “rejected” to use famously humorous terms of philosophers. Attempts to show how a philosopher went awry (such as in Schopenhauer’s critique of Kant) have interest only to a small slice of people, because it is so technical; that is, unless you mix in provocative assertions that appeal to the lay reader’s everyday, and normal, interest in controversy for the sake of controversy. It is a difficult position to negotiate, that of the position of the critique of a philosopher. Which is a general comment, and just something I wanted to point out.

    To start, I don’t agree with how you have boiled his criticisms down. To criticize Wilber’s writing is fair game. I’d say it is the first thing to criticize, of anyone. People criticize, say, a composer such as Philip Glass for being redudant and possibly deficient of interesting ideas, and so it is a criticism of craft, which is sometimes a technical sort of criticism, but no less valid or important. Limited appeal doesn’t mean limited validity. Wilber, overall, is at times a very good writer, but this book is not an example of that. His own habit of repetition is taken to extremes in the book.

    One can write via “circular” or “concentric” styles of writing (Marshall McLuhan is an example of this) but there is a point of diminishing returns and I think Wilber pushes it in Boomeritis as well as his nonfiction work (in that he constantly rehashes the skeleton of his theory). This very well may be a largely subjective preference. But when topics are repeated to the extent that Andrews documents, even in a novel, even in a “postmodern” novel, even in a “postmodern novel that attempts to be bad”, even in a “postmodern novel that attempts to be bad and self-aware of itself” then it becomes game, rightly, for criticism. Whether it is good criticism or bad criticism, it gets to whether Wilber is as good a writer as the hype about him indicates. How we write is indicative of how we think, as we all know. In this case, there is the temptation to conclude that Wilber was thinking superficially when he wrote this novel, which I don’t think is a useful position to take in today’s age.

    Next, fact checking is no small matter, either. In the publishing field, fact checkers or “quality control (QC)” is a job unto itself. An important job, because good QC separats hack from professionalism. Getting basic things wrong has been the subject of criticism towards Wilber for a long time, and recently with G. Falk and now with Andrews. When you get basic things wrong, it calls into question (depending on the extent of violations of documentable fact) all other situations where fact/research/statistics/etc. come into play, and the integrity with which these are reported or described. We usually give writers, generally, the benefit of the doubt, and a long rope, which means we trust them when they quote statistics, facts, or someone else’s words/conclusions. We trust that they got it right and faithful to the source. Wilber doesn’t deserve a pass on the basic stuff of scholarship, and neither does anyone else.

    Without evidence for claims about meditation, the actual effect of “itp”, the efficiency of the so-called “second tier”, the nature of consciousness at it develops, the nature of development in mid-life, where does that leave the claims he routinely makes on them? Where does that leave the practical impetus for his theory, a large part of which is in fact geared towards advocating the practice of meditation as part of an integral practice, to stabilize a new level of consciousness (an “integral consciousness”, from his writings), that develops according to research he cites, especially as an aid to one’s mid-life, where he asserts that development slows down?

    Well, if Wilber is wrong about these, it certainly wouldn’t help out his theory out in any way. Andrews’ critiques don’t necessarily call “AQAL”, as a model into question (though maybe the authenticity of the reason for its advocacy), but it does call important topics into question. I mean, if Wilber was wrong on these issues (100% wrong, hypothetically), then, for example, the heavy emphasis in his work on the transformation nature of meditation seems very misplaced. The heavy emphasis on what I playfully refer to as the “messiah” of the second tier is entirely an unearned assertion. And if “itp” doesn’t offer the effects as advertised, it calls into question why Wilber’s system is in any way an improvement on the already existing schools of “whole experience” found, in a small example, in the Jesuit tradition. You could take all this waaaaay too far, and call into question the need for Wilber’s work, overall, but of course Andrews’ essay doesn’t support taking it that far, and I’m not doing so here. But it does support this conclusion, which has implications that reach beyond this book, and thus about Wilber’s oevre in general:

    Question Wilber’s conclusions and assumptions at every turn.

    Which of course is what good, scholarly critique is supposed to do, so there is nothing particularly new about that. But it is relatively new to people who get into Wilber’s work from a New Age background, or from a non-scholarly background. This is no special capacity — that of being skeptical — and it is within everyone who reads Wilber’s books. I’d just like to see more of it. I know some people want Wilber to lead a revolution of sorts in the world, but it won’t happen in any kind of sustainable way unless what he espouses holds up to examination and skepticism. I firmly believe that integral, as a worldview, is here to stay. I don’t, however, believe the same about all of Wilber’s work, especially the real validity of Boomeritis, the novel.

    I think we are entering the phase with Wilber’s integral where more and more people have fulfilled Virginia Woolf’s first step of literary critique — where one surrenders to the writer completely — and thus are entering her second (and final) step of literary critique — where we don’t give the writer get away with anything. If true, this is a healthy development in the integral community, one that bodes well for the actual sustainability of an “integral worldview”; though, in truth, that worldview, if it is anything real, is by nature already in the world, and far beyond the control of a single philosopher, whether his/her work is entirely true or entirely false. Thus critique in this way hopes to solidify, at least, the cognitive/logical aspect of this worldview, so that, in practice, the way we think, write, and even talk isn’t burdened by unnecessary contradictions. Or in other words, thinking integral clearly is something we can all share.

    Harmonic bows,
    md

  2. Hi Tim,

    I came upon your site via clicking through Technorati. Looks good, glad that your voice is out there/here. Will continue to check out your site as things go forward.

    Anyway, I come in peace and want to stand up a bit for Andrews’ piece, which I do think is funny and intellectually rigorous, as I said initially, and highlights several points that generally conclude that the intellectual integrity of Wilber (as a scholar/researcher/etc) ought be questioned. I don’t think it is any kind of ultimate take-down of Wilber’s theory, but for its limited context and aims, I consider it one of the better pieces of critique out there. He makes distinctions between minor, moderate, and major blunders, which further contextualizes his investigations and conclusions. He makes jokes (i.e., blunder #0, and others), doesn’t take things too seriously (but, also, does). He ends with reasonable suggestions to the person interested in Wilber and integral theory in general (suggestions that show he is in fact very interested in integral theory, though not perhaps Wilber’s integral). And he provides endnotes for all his research. Honestly, I don’t see how this piece ought not be taken seriously, and the points addressed at face value. And I definitely don’t see where your implied suggestion at the end of your commentary is going, though it doesn’t sound anywhere particularly pleasant. 🙂

    Now is a good time to start to consider what “reasonable metrics” are for the assessment of critiques of Wilber’s work. It is long-accepted folklore that it is difficult to critique his theories. Difficult, for several reasons. One is the breadth of the topics covered; another is the amount of books written, with points buried in footnotes or in a couple sentences in a book that attempts to set right something discussed in another. But the main reason, I think, is that philosophy, at least traditionally, dances between science and speculation, the former is critique-able, and the latter generally not (but rather “dismissed” or “rejected” to use famously humorous terms of philosophers. Attempts to show how a philosopher went awry (such as in Schopenhauer’s critique of Kant) have interest only to a small slice of people, because it is so technical; that is, unless you mix in provocative assertions that appeal to the lay reader’s everyday, and normal, interest in controversy for the sake of controversy. It is a difficult position to negotiate, that of the position of the critique of a philosopher. Which is a general comment, and just something I wanted to point out.

    To start, I don’t agree with how you have boiled his criticisms down. To criticize Wilber’s writing is fair game. I’d say it is the first thing to criticize, of anyone. People criticize, say, a composer such as Philip Glass for being redudant and possibly deficient of interesting ideas, and so it is a criticism of craft, which is sometimes a technical sort of criticism, but no less valid or important. Limited appeal doesn’t mean limited validity. Wilber, overall, is at times a very good writer, but this book is not an example of that. His own habit of repetition is taken to extremes in the book.

    One can write via “circular” or “concentric” styles of writing (Marshall McLuhan is an example of this) but there is a point of diminishing returns and I think Wilber pushes it in Boomeritis as well as his nonfiction work (in that he constantly rehashes the skeleton of his theory). This very well may be a largely subjective preference. But when topics are repeated to the extent that Andrews documents, even in a novel, even in a “postmodern” novel, even in a “postmodern novel that attempts to be bad”, even in a “postmodern novel that attempts to be bad and self-aware of itself” then it becomes game, rightly, for criticism. Whether it is good criticism or bad criticism, it gets to whether Wilber is as good a writer as the hype about him indicates. How we write is indicative of how we think, as we all know. In this case, there is the temptation to conclude that Wilber was thinking superficially when he wrote this novel, which I don’t think is a useful position to take in today’s age.

    Next, fact checking is no small matter, either. In the publishing field, fact checkers or “quality control (QC)” is a job unto itself. An important job, because good QC separats hack from professionalism. Getting basic things wrong has been the subject of criticism towards Wilber for a long time, and recently with G. Falk and now with Andrews. When you get basic things wrong, it calls into question (depending on the extent of violations of documentable fact) all other situations where fact/research/statistics/etc. come into play, and the integrity with which these are reported or described. We usually give writers, generally, the benefit of the doubt, and a long rope, which means we trust them when they quote statistics, facts, or someone else’s words/conclusions. We trust that they got it right and faithful to the source. Wilber doesn’t deserve a pass on the basic stuff of scholarship, and neither does anyone else.

    Without evidence for claims about meditation, the actual effect of “itp”, the efficiency of the so-called “second tier”, the nature of consciousness at it develops, the nature of development in mid-life, where does that leave the claims he routinely makes on them? Where does that leave the practical impetus for his theory, a large part of which is in fact geared towards advocating the practice of meditation as part of an integral practice, to stabilize a new level of consciousness (an “integral consciousness”, from his writings), that develops according to research he cites, especially as an aid to one’s mid-life, where he asserts that development slows down?

    Well, if Wilber is wrong about these, it certainly wouldn’t help out his theory out in any way. Andrews’ critiques don’t necessarily call “AQAL”, as a model into question (though maybe the authenticity of the reason for its advocacy), but it does call important topics into question. I mean, if Wilber was wrong on these issues (100% wrong, hypothetically), then, for example, the heavy emphasis in his work on the transformation nature of meditation seems very misplaced. The heavy emphasis on what I playfully refer to as the “messiah” of the second tier is entirely an unearned assertion. And if “itp” doesn’t offer the effects as advertised, it calls into question why Wilber’s system is in any way an improvement on the already existing schools of “whole experience” found, in a small example, in the Jesuit tradition. You could take all this waaaaay too far, and call into question the need for Wilber’s work, overall, but of course Andrews’ essay doesn’t support taking it that far, and I’m not doing so here. But it does support this conclusion, which has implications that reach beyond this book, and thus about Wilber’s oevre in general:

    Question Wilber’s conclusions and assumptions at every turn.

    Which of course is what good, scholarly critique is supposed to do, so there is nothing particularly new about that. But it is relatively new to people who get into Wilber’s work from a New Age background, or from a non-scholarly background. This is no special capacity — that of being skeptical — and it is within everyone who reads Wilber’s books. I’d just like to see more of it. I know some people want Wilber to lead a revolution of sorts in the world, but it won’t happen in any kind of sustainable way unless what he espouses holds up to examination and skepticism. I firmly believe that integral, as a worldview, is here to stay. I don’t, however, believe the same about all of Wilber’s work, especially the real validity of Boomeritis, the novel.

    I think we are entering the phase with Wilber’s integral where more and more people have fulfilled Virginia Woolf’s first step of literary critique — where one surrenders to the writer completely — and thus are entering her second (and final) step of literary critique — where we don’t give the writer get away with anything. If true, this is a healthy development in the integral community, one that bodes well for the actual sustainability of an “integral worldview”; though, in truth, that worldview, if it is anything real, is by nature already in the world, and far beyond the control of a single philosopher, whether his/her work is entirely true or entirely false. Thus critique in this way hopes to solidify, at least, the cognitive/logical aspect of this worldview, so that, in practice, the way we think, write, and even talk isn’t burdened by unnecessary contradictions. Or in other words, thinking integral clearly is something we can all share.

    Harmonic bows,
    md

  3. Hey Matthew!

    Thank you for dropping by, it’s an unexpected pleasure.

    I think I agree with just about every point you made and I totally agree with the necessity of…

    understanding that Integral is more than Wilber’s work
    understanding that Wilber’s work has flaws and errors and that skepticism should be applied
    fostering more and better criticism of that work to help people grasp the problems where they are.

    I guess I’ve come into Integral from a scholarly background (socio-technical research around IT – hardly the same field, but still, academic) rather than from a New Age background and I don’t really expect Wilber to be flawless or without bias because I’m so used to trying to navigate discourses and notice ontological commitments when I read stuff in other disciplines.

    I also totally agree with the validity of criticising Wilber as an author – because his style often really annoys me. In fact, I avoided reading “Boomeritis” because the bits I’d read seemed to irritating and I assumed that he’d repeat the same stuff elsewhere. I’m over reading theory disguised as fiction ever since I stopped reading later Heinlein.

    I got disappointed at Andrews’ essay because I wanted it to be good and thorough, but because it tries to criticise mostly the factual content of a novel I didn’t find myself convinced of either the literary or he factual critique.

    While I appreciate the tremendous amount of work Geoff Falk puts into his criticism of Wilber and others, the tone of his writing is so cranky (in his blog much more than his book) that I find it quite hard to read.

    But I think, like you, I get sad when people idolise Ken as “The Einstein of consciousness” and overlook the various unsubstantiated things he says without seeking external verification, when they take things on faith rather than being provoked into investigation and I long for a more widespread movement of Integral thinking so that Wilber’s stuff can be put in context, be “freed by limiting” it :).

    So, more criticism I say! But let’s raise the standard of that too.

    Resonant salaams,

    Tim

  4. Hey Matthew!

    Thank you for dropping by, it’s an unexpected pleasure.

    I think I agree with just about every point you made and I totally agree with the necessity of…

    – understanding that Integral is more than Wilber’s work
    – understanding that Wilber’s work has flaws and errors and that skepticism should be applied
    – fostering more and better criticism of that work to help people grasp the problems where they are.

    I guess I’ve come into Integral from a scholarly background (socio-technical research around IT – hardly the same field, but still, academic) rather than from a New Age background and I don’t really expect Wilber to be flawless or without bias because I’m so used to trying to navigate discourses and notice ontological commitments when I read stuff in other disciplines.

    I also totally agree with the validity of criticising Wilber as an author – because his style often really annoys me. In fact, I avoided reading “Boomeritis” because the bits I’d read seemed to irritating and I assumed that he’d repeat the same stuff elsewhere. I’m over reading theory disguised as fiction ever since I stopped reading later Heinlein.

    I got disappointed at Andrews’ essay because I wanted it to be good and thorough, but because it tries to criticise mostly the factual content of a novel I didn’t find myself convinced of either the literary or he factual critique.

    While I appreciate the tremendous amount of work Geoff Falk puts into his criticism of Wilber and others, the tone of his writing is *so* cranky (in his blog much more than his book) that I find it quite hard to read.

    But I think, like you, I get sad when people idolise Ken as “The Einstein of consciousness” and overlook the various unsubstantiated things he says without seeking external verification, when they take things on faith rather than being provoked into investigation and I long for a more widespread movement of Integral thinking so that Wilber’s stuff can be put in context, be “freed by limiting” it :).

    So, more criticism I say! But let’s raise the standard of that too.

    Resonant salaams,

    Tim

  5. “While I appreciate the tremendous amount of work Geoff Falk puts into his criticism of Wilber and others, the tone of his writing is so cranky (in his blog much more than his book) that I find it quite hard to read.”

    I’ll second that. Falk’s critique is by far the most comprehensive (even if much of it has been stated elsewhere) but the blog comments just get snarkier and snarkier. The worst was when he called Wilber a “total, fucking, bald, integral idiot.” for the heinous crime of wrongly stating that Rubber Soul and Revolver were recorded in the same sessions.

    That being said, I think the occasional strong polemic can be beneficial, when it comes to Wilber criticism (something Wilber himself was accused of with regard to SES). For example, the Tim Lane 10 part critique is fair and comprehensive (it’s on Falk’s site) but it made little headway. Falk’s approach has been successful in stirring people into action. However, the occasional over the topness is also clearly turning people away from it.

    On Boomeritis: I haven’t read and I’m not going to buy it. The whole thing seems so redundant. It should have stayed as the essay it was originally going to be. The conclusions seem to predetermined, which looks like it might also be the problem with Wilber’s forthcoming book on terrorism (and with the SDi chitchat on the IN forum). Perhaps part of the problem is that as the AQAL model has expanded, the scope has become so large and unwieldy that we’ve been reduced to nothing more than colour based platitudes.

    On Wilber’s tendency to repeat himself: This was the reason that the teacher who introduced me to Wilber stopped reading him. He just couldn’t cope with the constant reiteration of the four quadrants. I don’t think a glance at current Integral activities would bring him rushing back.

    Just a final note on all the Wilber criticism of late: I think we’re in the 2nd stage, as outlined by Matthew. I also think that most if not all of the criticism constitutes ‘heavy pruning’ of Wilber’s model. As the man himself has said, “You can fill out the details anyway you like”. It just seems to be that Wilber and I-I suck at filling out the details, at least so far. The one critique that is the most challenging to the model as a whole structure is the questioning of orientating generalizations, moreso because in some areas, Wilber’s ideas clearly stand outside what would be considered an orientating generalization in that field (for example, his insistence that very few biologists believe in strict Neo-Darwinism anymore, and his promotion of Behe’s book as the strongest critique of the Neo-Darwinist model).

    Still, I think there is a lot of good and interesting stuff in the areas where Wilber’s work is still ‘novel’ and not a rehashing of earlier efforts (The excerpts from Sex, Karma, Creativity spring to mind).

    Loud headbanging nods,

    TG.

  6. “While I appreciate the tremendous amount of work Geoff Falk puts into his criticism of Wilber and others, the tone of his writing is so cranky (in his blog much more than his book) that I find it quite hard to read.”

    I’ll second that. Falk’s critique is by far the most comprehensive (even if much of it has been stated elsewhere) but the blog comments just get snarkier and snarkier. The worst was when he called Wilber a “total, fucking, bald, integral idiot.” for the heinous crime of wrongly stating that Rubber Soul and Revolver were recorded in the same sessions.

    That being said, I think the occasional strong polemic can be beneficial, when it comes to Wilber criticism (something Wilber himself was accused of with regard to SES). For example, the Tim Lane 10 part critique is fair and comprehensive (it’s on Falk’s site) but it made little headway. Falk’s approach has been successful in stirring people into action. However, the occasional over the topness is also clearly turning people away from it.

    On Boomeritis: I haven’t read and I’m not going to buy it. The whole thing seems so redundant. It should have stayed as the essay it was originally going to be. The conclusions seem to predetermined, which looks like it might also be the problem with Wilber’s forthcoming book on terrorism (and with the SDi chitchat on the IN forum). Perhaps part of the problem is that as the AQAL model has expanded, the scope has become so large and unwieldy that we’ve been reduced to nothing more than colour based platitudes.

    On Wilber’s tendency to repeat himself: This was the reason that the teacher who introduced me to Wilber stopped reading him. He just couldn’t cope with the constant reiteration of the four quadrants. I don’t think a glance at current Integral activities would bring him rushing back.

    Just a final note on all the Wilber criticism of late: I think we’re in the 2nd stage, as outlined by Matthew. I also think that most if not all of the criticism constitutes ‘heavy pruning’ of Wilber’s model. As the man himself has said, “You can fill out the details anyway you like”. It just seems to be that Wilber and I-I suck at filling out the details, at least so far. The one critique that is the most challenging to the model as a whole structure is the questioning of orientating generalizations, moreso because in some areas, Wilber’s ideas clearly stand outside what would be considered an orientating generalization in that field (for example, his insistence that very few biologists believe in strict Neo-Darwinism anymore, and his promotion of Behe’s book as the strongest critique of the Neo-Darwinist model).

    Still, I think there is a lot of good and interesting stuff in the areas where Wilber’s work is still ‘novel’ and not a rehashing of earlier efforts (The excerpts from Sex, Karma, Creativity spring to mind).

    Loud headbanging nods,

    TG.

  7. Your reaction to the 20 Boomeritis Blunders post was much the same as mine (I didn’t find it funny and thought its “intellectual rigor” of a rather odd sort). I thought you stated your criticisms very well.

    I don’t have time to comment at greater length, but I do want to say this much. Your post reminds me of the Nature study that compares science articles in Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The researchers found an average of 4 or 5 errors in each article, and called the results very good. Now magnify 4 or 5 errors by the number of articles in the Encyclopedia Brittanica and you get a picture of tens of thousands of mistakes in such a work. I just think it’s ridiculous for self-important writers like Jim Andrews to attack Wilber as he does on the basis mostly of having an error rate in the book that’s probably several times superior to the average article in Encyclopedia Brittanica.

  8. Your reaction to the 20 Boomeritis Blunders post was much the same as mine (I didn’t find it funny and thought its “intellectual rigor” of a rather odd sort). I thought you stated your criticisms very well.

    I don’t have time to comment at greater length, but I do want to say this much. Your post reminds me of the Nature study that compares science articles in Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The researchers found an average of 4 or 5 errors in each article, and called the results very good. Now magnify 4 or 5 errors by the number of articles in the Encyclopedia Brittanica and you get a picture of tens of thousands of mistakes in such a work. I just think it’s ridiculous for self-important writers like Jim Andrews to attack Wilber as he does on the basis mostly of having an error rate in the book that’s probably several times superior to the average article in Encyclopedia Brittanica.

  9. Glad to see a real discussion here.

    I’ll take the arguments thusfar presented in order from least persuasive to most persuasive.

    WWolf, your argument here is glib, specious, and your main point irrelevant. Wikipedia, Brittanica, Nature, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, whatever — there could be 400 errors per article and none of that has a bearing on this topic here. We are talking about the 21 things cited in Andrews’ piece, not what is presented in other places. I strongly disagree Andrews’ piece is an attach; it is a critique, and one that cares about its subject at that.
    I’d rather see an argument on substance from you, than an argument on author psychography. Even if Andrews is “self-important” (which i don’t think he is), that has no bearing on the validity of the criticisms he forwards.

    I agree with both Tim(w/c) and Ghost, by the way, about Falk, and I’m happy to see nuanced, as opposed to lunk-headed, appraisals of his Wilber criticism. He does work very hard, and he presents much of good, ole substance. His Wilber/Bohm I have critiqued his insults previously (such as those towards DASHH) and I don’t think the most of his insults are necessary in any way. I generally attempt to see right through them (“total, fucking, bald, integral idiot” becomes “Wilber is misguided here” in my head) but I firmly agree that doing so can get laborious. I have often concieved of his online presence as a king of performance art that simultracks ad hominem with academic rigor, but even I have started to think that my appraisal is stretching reality too far. I just hope he maintains the levels substance in his Wilber critiquing that I originally found so compelling.

    It is interesting that both you cats (T(w/c) and TG) haven’t actually read Boomeritis. I don’t recommend that you do. There is nothing in it of note that isn’t in TOE, IPsy, MoSaS, SES, and EOS. Which is precisely why even though Boomeritis is a novel, you can criticize its main claims and points. As Tim says, it is “theory disguised as fiction” — or as I said, the same theoretical framework that undergirds Wilber’s fiction undergirds his nonfictition. And Ghost “predetermined conclusions” is spot on.

    All of this gets to something I raised in my first comment — the metrics for assessment of Wilber’s work. What are metrics we can agree on?

    Tim mentioned raising the bar, Ghost suggested that orientating generalizations as important points of critical focus. Many people on INaked reduce criticism to “nitpicking” where others find merit and insight. And even here in Andrews’ piece, where Tim found 4 main points of criticism, I found at least 12, and so there is confusion. The validity of criticism will always of its subjective side, where we like some critical article or essay just cuz. It meets our preferences, etc.

    But on the objective side, what are our metrics, our standards, for assessing criticism of Wilber’s work? Determining this is another way to ensure that this “second stage” of Wilber sticks.

    In paragraphs 7 and 8 of my first comment, I suggested that Andrews’ criticisms do address important aspects of Wilber’s overall model. To get more people to meditation is one of his stated aims, and to address issues of human development (itp, mid-life flat-lining) is just as crucial to his advocacy. And obviously, Wilber placed “second tier” in a special place in his overall theory. Each of these three topics are addressed in Andrews’ piece. And if Wilber is wrong with the facts about these three, then it in fact implicates the validity of his larger model in no small way, because he uses these to support his assertions.

    I propose one metric for assessment is how intrinsic the points of criticism are. I have shown that in Andrews’ piece, his points about meditation, ipt, human development would, in fact, be rightly considered intrinsic. If Wilber got the facts about these wrong, then a domino effect could ensue that undermines the authenticity of his model’s advocacy.

    I should point out that the Andrews’ critique of Wilber’s writing style (redundacy, etc) is not meet the intrinsic test, but rather is an extrinsic. That doesn’t mean it has any less validity (after all, we three seem to agree that Wilber repeats himself far too often, and a good writer, generally, does not rely on endless repeating). But it does mean that it doesn’t implicate Wilber’s theory in any substantial way. Let’s be clear about this distinction.

    And Wilber-heads will know that Wilber proposes a third metric (that of “ground value”) but that isn’t particularly relevant here, because it suggests “radical equality” that is an important point in its own context (the entire kosmos), but is in no way helpful to assessing anything in the intellectual/philosophical realm. It is a version of “it’s all good” and that attitude is precisely what a main obstacle is in the way of clarity in an integral worldview.

    md

  10. Glad to see a real discussion here.

    I’ll take the arguments thusfar presented in order from least persuasive to most persuasive.

    WWolf, your argument here is glib, specious, and your main point irrelevant. Wikipedia, Brittanica, Nature, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, whatever — there could be 400 errors per article and none of that has a bearing on this topic here. We are talking about the 21 things cited in Andrews’ piece, not what is presented in other places. I strongly disagree Andrews’ piece is an attach; it is a critique, and one that cares about its subject at that.
    I’d rather see an argument on substance from you, than an argument on author psychography. Even if Andrews is “self-important” (which i don’t think he is), that has no bearing on the validity of the criticisms he forwards.

    I agree with both Tim(w/c) and Ghost, by the way, about Falk, and I’m happy to see nuanced, as opposed to lunk-headed, appraisals of his Wilber criticism. He does work very hard, and he presents much of good, ole substance. His Wilber/Bohm I have critiqued his insults previously (such as those towards DASHH) and I don’t think the most of his insults are necessary in any way. I generally attempt to see right through them (“total, fucking, bald, integral idiot” becomes “Wilber is misguided here” in my head) but I firmly agree that doing so can get laborious. I have often concieved of his online presence as a king of performance art that simultracks ad hominem with academic rigor, but even I have started to think that my appraisal is stretching reality too far. I just hope he maintains the levels substance in his Wilber critiquing that I originally found so compelling.

    It is interesting that both you cats (T(w/c) and TG) haven’t actually read Boomeritis. I don’t recommend that you do. There is nothing in it of note that isn’t in TOE, IPsy, MoSaS, SES, and EOS. Which is precisely why even though Boomeritis is a novel, you can criticize its main claims and points. As Tim says, it is “theory disguised as fiction” — or as I said, the same theoretical framework that undergirds Wilber’s fiction undergirds his nonfictition. And Ghost “predetermined conclusions” is spot on.

    All of this gets to something I raised in my first comment — the metrics for assessment of Wilber’s work. What are metrics we can agree on?

    Tim mentioned raising the bar, Ghost suggested that orientating generalizations as important points of critical focus. Many people on INaked reduce criticism to “nitpicking” where others find merit and insight. And even here in Andrews’ piece, where Tim found 4 main points of criticism, I found at least 12, and so there is confusion. The validity of criticism will always of its subjective side, where we like some critical article or essay just cuz. It meets our preferences, etc.

    But on the objective side, what are our metrics, our standards, for assessing criticism of Wilber’s work? Determining this is another way to ensure that this “second stage” of Wilber sticks.

    In paragraphs 7 and 8 of my first comment, I suggested that Andrews’ criticisms do address important aspects of Wilber’s overall model. To get more people to meditation is one of his stated aims, and to address issues of human development (itp, mid-life flat-lining) is just as crucial to his advocacy. And obviously, Wilber placed “second tier” in a special place in his overall theory. Each of these three topics are addressed in Andrews’ piece. And if Wilber is wrong with the facts about these three, then it in fact implicates the validity of his larger model in no small way, because he uses these to support his assertions.

    I propose one metric for assessment is how intrinsic the points of criticism are. I have shown that in Andrews’ piece, his points about meditation, ipt, human development would, in fact, be rightly considered intrinsic. If Wilber got the facts about these wrong, then a domino effect could ensue that undermines the authenticity of his model’s advocacy.

    I should point out that the Andrews’ critique of Wilber’s writing style (redundacy, etc) is not meet the intrinsic test, but rather is an extrinsic. That doesn’t mean it has any less validity (after all, we three seem to agree that Wilber repeats himself far too often, and a good writer, generally, does not rely on endless repeating). But it does mean that it doesn’t implicate Wilber’s theory in any substantial way. Let’s be clear about this distinction.

    And Wilber-heads will know that Wilber proposes a third metric (that of “ground value”) but that isn’t particularly relevant here, because it suggests “radical equality” that is an important point in its own context (the entire kosmos), but is in no way helpful to assessing anything in the intellectual/philosophical realm. It is a version of “it’s all good” and that attitude is precisely what a main obstacle is in the way of clarity in an integral worldview.

    md

  11. three typo corrections:

    “attach” is supposed to be “attack” (3rd paragraph)

    sentences supposed to read:

    “His Wilber/Bohm analysis is particularly insightful. I have critiqued his insults previously (such as those towards DASHH) and I don’t think that most of his insults are necessary in any way.” (4th paragraph)

    last sentence of the piece should read:

    It is a version of “it’s all good” and that attitude can easily be an obstacle in the way of clarity in an integral worldview, because in fact it makes no distinctions at all, about anything.

  12. three typo corrections:

    “attach” is supposed to be “attack” (3rd paragraph)

    sentences supposed to read:

    “His Wilber/Bohm analysis is particularly insightful. I have critiqued his insults previously (such as those towards DASHH) and I don’t think that most of his insults are necessary in any way.” (4th paragraph)

    last sentence of the piece should read:

    It is a version of “it’s all good” and that attitude can easily be an obstacle in the way of clarity in an integral worldview, because in fact it makes no distinctions at all, about anything.

  13. Matthew, I appreciate your writing, even when I find it annoying. I agree with your assessment that my comment was glib, as in superficial and informally delivered. Alas, it is rare when I have the time and energy to pen 1,000-word essays in response to every interesting blog that I see. You seem to have no trouble doing so, and I applaud your fine essays. As for your suggestion that my comment was specious and irrelevant, I disagree. Get over yourself.

  14. Matthew, I appreciate your writing, even when I find it annoying. I agree with your assessment that my comment was glib, as in superficial and informally delivered. Alas, it is rare when I have the time and energy to pen 1,000-word essays in response to every interesting blog that I see. You seem to have no trouble doing so, and I applaud your fine essays. As for your suggestion that my comment was specious and irrelevant, I disagree. Get over yourself.

  15. Oh jeez. Well, I think, moving forward, that an agreeable rule for public debate, especially on the chaotic blogosphere, and doubly-especially on the wide-open topic of integral and Wilber’s integral, is this:

    Assessing arguments = good; assessing people behind arguments = bad.

    or:

    addressing substance = yes yes yes!; assessing psychograph = oh no no no!

    Sorry for the superimposed mythic blueness of the member, but it is needed when a good discourse teeters on the edge of collapse. I’ve been through enough of these in my years on the Shambhala online Wilber forum, where the real game of it was not to talk ideas (as much as I and others tried, quixotically) but to see how quickly a topical thread could go ad hominem. It got so tiring, as you might imagine, and so I have little to no tolerance for it anymore. And I expect much more out of very intelligent people. But even cool people offer sucky arguments. I believe compassion begs you call these things out, but I acknowledge that this is not a unanimous conclusion.

    I offered a means to assess Andrews’ piece, that of the “intrinsic test”, so perhaps if there is comment on that (argument is right or wrong, etc.), we could continue dignified debate about ideas, arguments, and conclusions, and not about inconsequential matters. Care to continue?

    And I agree with this comment, btw, offered by TG:

    Still, I think there is a lot of good and interesting stuff in the areas where Wilber’s work is still ‘novel’ and not a rehashing of earlier efforts (The excerpts from Sex, Karma, Creativity spring to mind).

    This is true. It might just be, if you forgive a small prediction, that at the end of the day, the three “desert island” Wilber books would be Atman Project, IPsy, and whatever the big book about to be churned out will be called (not the terrorism thing, or the spirituality thing, but the stuff previewed in the online excerpts). I really hope it doesn’t offer yet another run-through of AQAL. But I think that is probably going to happen, if Wilber’s own “pattern of everything” holds as it has for the last however many books with original content.

    md

  16. Oh jeez. Well, I think, moving forward, that an agreeable rule for public debate, especially on the chaotic blogosphere, and doubly-especially on the wide-open topic of integral and Wilber’s integral, is this:

    Assessing arguments = good; assessing people behind arguments = bad.

    or:

    addressing substance = yes yes yes!; assessing psychograph = oh no no no!

    Sorry for the superimposed mythic blueness of the member, but it is needed when a good discourse teeters on the edge of collapse. I’ve been through enough of these in my years on the Shambhala online Wilber forum, where the real game of it was not to talk ideas (as much as I and others tried, quixotically) but to see how quickly a topical thread could go ad hominem. It got so tiring, as you might imagine, and so I have little to no tolerance for it anymore. And I expect much more out of very intelligent people. But even cool people offer sucky arguments. I believe compassion begs you call these things out, but I acknowledge that this is not a unanimous conclusion.

    I offered a means to assess Andrews’ piece, that of the “intrinsic test”, so perhaps if there is comment on that (argument is right or wrong, etc.), we could continue dignified debate about ideas, arguments, and conclusions, and not about inconsequential matters. Care to continue?

    And I agree with this comment, btw, offered by TG:

    Still, I think there is a lot of good and interesting stuff in the areas where Wilber’s work is still ‘novel’ and not a rehashing of earlier efforts (The excerpts from Sex, Karma, Creativity spring to mind).

    This is true. It might just be, if you forgive a small prediction, that at the end of the day, the three “desert island” Wilber books would be Atman Project, IPsy, and whatever the big book about to be churned out will be called (not the terrorism thing, or the spirituality thing, but the stuff previewed in the online excerpts). I really hope it doesn’t offer yet another run-through of AQAL. But I think that is probably going to happen, if Wilber’s own “pattern of everything” holds as it has for the last however many books with original content.

    md

  17. Sorry all, been on the road travelling to Brisbane where my family is for Christmas.

    Matthew, could you restate the “instrinsic test” in a little more detail? I didn’t get it.

    Oh, and in passing, I have no problem at all with critiquing the quality or style of Wilber’s writing – but I felt that the term “blunders” that Jim used to title his essay implied “errors”, which seemed inappropriate for a lot of what he was criticising.

    There is a “benefit of the doubt” option here that I’d like to pick up on… Wilber says meditation does so and so, but fails to cite research – that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. We can legitimately critique his text for not citing research (when he cites so much other stuff), but we can also go look to see if such research exists.

    We can’t really do the same for paranormal phenomena because it’s such a minefield polarised into the skeptics who, it seems, wouldn’t believe it if someone made a chair levitate in front of them, and the believers who believe that telekinesis is what makes geese fly in formation… I’m exaggerating for comedy, but if you’ve tried reading up on psi recently you’ll know what I mean.

    Anyway, my general point is that for some of these un-evidenced assertions, it might be a nice piece of service to do some research and post it… that is, it might be some good service for me… I’ll see how my research calendar pans out next year 🙂

  18. Sorry all, been on the road travelling to Brisbane where my family is for Christmas.

    Matthew, could you restate the “instrinsic test” in a little more detail? I didn’t get it.

    Oh, and in passing, I have no problem at all with critiquing the quality or style of Wilber’s writing – but I felt that the term “blunders” that Jim used to title his essay implied “errors”, which seemed inappropriate for a lot of what he was criticising.

    There is a “benefit of the doubt” option here that I’d like to pick up on… Wilber says meditation does so and so, but fails to cite research – that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. We can legitimately critique his text for not citing research (when he cites so much other stuff), but we can also go look to see if such research exists.

    We can’t really do the same for paranormal phenomena because it’s such a minefield polarised into the skeptics who, it seems, wouldn’t believe it if someone made a chair levitate in front of them, and the believers who believe that telekinesis is what makes geese fly in formation… I’m exaggerating for comedy, but if you’ve tried reading up on psi recently you’ll know what I mean.

    Anyway, my general point is that for some of these un-evidenced assertions, it might be a nice piece of service to do some research and post it… that is, it might be some good service for me… I’ll see how my research calendar pans out next year 🙂

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